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Fri Sep 7, 2012, 06:19 AM

Joshua Holland: Obama's Big DNC Finale - Dems Are More Agressive, United Than We've Seen in Years [View all]



AlterNet / By Joshua Holland

Obama's Big Finale at the DNC -- Dems Are More Agressive, United Than We've Seen in Years
Progressives had much to savor this week in Charlotte.
September 6, 2012 |

On Thursday night, Barack Obama strode to the podium and met all of our expectations, capping a week that may have marked a transition for the Democratic Party. But the defining moment of the convention – Obama's official nomination -- wasn't what stood out.

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But while Obama's talk offered few surprises, the convention did – and not just for the fact that (by my reckoning) he gave only the fourth best speech of the three-day event. Whereas twelve years ago, many progressives rightly saw little difference between the two parties, today that is only remotely true of 'national security' policy, broadly defined. On the domestic side -- on the economy, and a host of social issues -- the differences have become stark. This was the first time a major party adopted a plank calling for marriage equality. It was the first convention addressed by an undocumented immigrant. Despite the stupidity with the platform language about Israel, Democrats seemed more comfortable in being Democrats than they have in the recent past.

Perhaps as a result, there was far more excitement in Charlotte than there had been in Tampa, and that was visible from the first day. The best speeches offered unabashed defenses of a woman's right to control her body and full-throated populist attacks on the GOP's creepy cult of wealth. Several speakers talked of liberal policy ideas as a manifestation of “economic patriotism,” suggesting in less-than-subtle terms that their opponents care less about the republic than they do. We saw real diversity not just on the podium, as was the case in Tampa, but in the audience. There was a sense that while the Democrats were certainly reaching out toward “swing” voters, they were also unafraid of what the dopes at Fox News would say about their party.

In part, that's a reflection of the growth of an independent progressive movement that was largely nonexistent during the 1990s, when the hangover of Mondale's 1984 thrashing was still fresh and triangulation was all the rage. But it's also a reaction to the GOP's growing extremism – according to Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, since 1975, “Senate Republicans moved roughly twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats moved to the left” and “House Republicans moved roughly six times as far to the right as House Democrats moved to the left.”

It's easy to be confident in your position on abortion when your opponents want to outlaw it without exceptions. There's no reason to be sheepish in calling for progressive taxation when your opponents want to effectively gut the federal government in order to pay for deep tax cuts for those who don't need them. And it's easy to openly embrace diversity when your opposition is a party made up of white, married Christians – a declining demographic – who throw peanuts at a black woman while yelling, “this is how we feed the animals!”

In a sense, the roles Democrats and Republicans have long played are now being reversed. We live in a liberal democracy, and today the Democrats are defenders of the status quo -- "conservatives" in the true sense -- while the right wants to roll back the last century, and that may ultimately end up strengthening the Democrats' spine.

We saw a party in the middle of a gradual transition in Charlotte. We still live in the only industrialized country without a party of labor. We still face the seemingly unkillable zombie of austerity lurking in both major parties. We still don't have a party that seems up to the challenge of truly addressing our environmental crises. Democrats still feel the need to embrace a hyper-masculine discourse on war and peace. They still use too much of Frank Luntz' poll-tested conservative frames.

But progress isn't made overnight, and for those of us who have been fighting to push the Democratic Party into closer alignment with the views of its progressive base, this convention ought to give progressives a moment savor.


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